Russia’s moves put the US in a box
Reading the White House’s dithering over the Syrian dilemma as total confusion, Vladimir Putin has positioned troops and naval forces in Assad’s Alawite stronghold of Latakia, under the cover of helping an ally fight terrorism. Putin is determined to salvage his only Mediterranean port at all costs. Russia continues to coordinate with Syria’s other patron, Iran, with IRGC Quds Force Commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani reportedly in Moscow for a second time in as many months, violating a UN travel ban. Russian adventurism will place greater strain on the upcoming military budget for FY16, as the Pentagon seeks to increase funding for all military branches to counter Russian expansion in the Levant.
Putin has also used Russia’s seat on the UN Security Council to block sanctions against South Sudanese rebel leaders, where fighting continues despite the peace deal signed last month. A crucial U.S. ally, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir is under U.S. pressure to keep the ceasefire at all costs, another example of how U.S. allies find themselves at a disadvantage against Russian proxies.
China’s expansionism making its neighbors nervous
China continues its aggressive moves in the South China Sea. Recently, Vice Adm. Yuan Yubai told a joint US-China military forum that the South China Sea, “belongs to China’. Beijing appears to have begun construction on yet another airstrip in the disputed islands. This development is viewed with alarm by the Philippines, which worries that it would place the Chinese military within striking distance of Reed Bank, where Manila is exploring for oil and gas.
Japan is also concerned by the prospect of Chinese expansionism, so much so that it has offered naval equipment, including patrol boats, to Vietnam, another claimant in the South China Sea. These developments are sure to be on the agenda next week as Chinese Premier Xi Jinping makes a state visit to Washington. The long announced, but so far undelivered U.S. ‘pivot to Asia’ may be the driving force behind Beijing’s effort to fortify “facts on the ground” in its stated sphere of influence.
Nigerian army rescues women and children from Boko Haram, no Chibok schoolchildren
Nigerian forces cleared a Boko Haram camp in Borno state, where they rescued a dozen women and children, but none of those recused were from the 2014 kidnapping of Chibok schoolchildren. It has been reported that these girls have now been turned into Boko Haram fighters. Boko Haram has killed around 400 civilians in northern Cameroon since January 2014. Additionally, Amnesty International reports that dozens more have been killed in Nigeria security response, due in part to deteriorating prison conditions.
France and Australia launch airstrikes inside Syria
Australia’s Royal Australian Air Force launched three airstrikes against the Islamic State on Monday, destroying a crude oil collection point and an armored personnel carrier. Australia has launched airstrikes against IS for about a year in Iraq, however these are the first strikes targeting forces in Syria. France has also announced that it will begin airstrikes in Syria due to concerns over the rapid expansion of IS in Syrian territory and threatening Western-supported Syrian rebel forces. French officials remarked that these strikes will be carried out independently of U.S. command.
Other news we’re following:
- Venezuela turns the page after 16 years of “21st Century Socialism” - December 7, 2015
- Iran’s foreign policy instrument set to reap benefits of the nuclear deal - December 2, 2015
- Boko Haram seeks to ‘remain and expand’ in West Africa - December 2, 2015